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Chrisfromco

Book direct or through TA??

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Hi everyone!! We are thinking of trying out MSC in the next year or two. We would like to try one of the new ships in the Caribbean, probably February 2021. We have always booked our cruises through Costco, but MSC is not serviced as far as I can tell. Would you recommend finding a TA or booking directly? I know we're not supposed to ask about specific companies here, but I'm just not quite sure of the best place to start. I was hoping to get some OBC or some other perk that a TA may provide. Thanks in advance for any help!

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Regardless of what you do on any other cruise line, the key to a successful MSC cruise is to book through a TA that has significant experience working with MSC. There are so many quirks with their entire pre-cruise process and customer service, that a good MSC TA is essential to a good experience with them.

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If you understand their concept of experiences, MSC is no more difficult than the others. We don't use a TA because we book Bella or Fantastica inside or oceanviews. 9 out of 10 agents are great. Look at the chart for more info. 

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We have always booked directly on the website. No issues. 

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Use TA, mine is great and saves a ton of time as customer service and MSC in the US is a misnomer. 

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Our TA regularly discounts our cruises on Princess (7 to 10+%) and last month discounted our first MSC cruise 7 %.  That was after we qualified for the 10% MSC discount for current and retired government employees.  She does have experience working with MSC plus she has sailed them in the Caribbean.  She had no issues (or at least none she shared with us; and she did process our reservation very quickly) getting the MSC discount.

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12 hours ago, Chrisfromco said:

Hi everyone!! We are thinking of trying out MSC in the next year or two. We would like to try one of the new ships in the Caribbean, probably February 2021. We have always booked our cruises through XXXXXX, but MSC is not serviced as far as I can tell. Would you recommend finding a TA or booking directly? I know we're not supposed to ask about specific companies here, but I'm just not quite sure of the best place to start. I was hoping to get some OBC or some other perk that a TA may provide. Thanks in advance for any help!

 

We are also not supposed mention TAs, which in this context includes that bigbox store you mentioned.  Not ragging on you, just letting you know.  Pretty much anyone you book a cruise through other than directly through the cruiseline is a TA.

 

On to your question - I never try to tell someone what they should do, but I am happy to share what I do.  I do my own research and do not require a lot (or any, really) handholding, so I go looking for the best deal I can find with a reputable agency.  My method is to use a site that lets you specify the sailing and cabin class you want and then different TAs can bid.  The bidding TAs don't know who I am unless I contact them about their offer. 

 

My first evaluation of the different offers is how well the TA paid attention to what I specified.  Then I look at price and I do as much research as I can on the different TAs that are still in the running.  Since in most cases the fare is identical the differences are generally in perks - mainly OBC, but sometimes things like free gratuities.

 

This approach has worked well for me, even on MSC.  On my most recent booking I got 450 in OBC, which represented about 9%.  I asked the TA if unused OBC was refundable and she said it wasn't.  And then she offered to reconfigure her offer to a direct 200 fare reduction and 250 in OBC, to reduce the chances of having unused OBC at the end of the cruise.

 

My approach may not be right for everyone, but it works for me.

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We like to book direct with MSC , then transfer the booking to a T.A.... we receive any bonus that MSC is offering and then upon transfer, we receive any bonus that the T.A. is offering.

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One answer is how much value are you receiving. A small onboard credit probably isn't worth it. Each person has to look at the numbers and make their own decision. It takes more than $25-50 OBC to get me to release my booking to a TA.

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We generally book all our cruises on our own.  As long as you are able to navigate the website and remember to periodically check, there's really nothing wrong with taking things into your own hands.  TAs are fine, but there have been multiple times that my wife and I did the research, found a price point that we knew we could book, and floated it to multiple TAs who all told us that price was impossible.  Doing it ourselves have saved us thousands in the long run.

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